BT to lose UFC and NBA TV rights as Eleven Sports steps up

FILE PHOTO: British Telecom (BT)'s headquarters is seen in central London, Britain May 10, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - BT <BT.L> has lost the right to show the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and NBA Basketball, with global broadcaster Eleven Sports picking up the martial arts in its latest acquisition.

A person familiar with the situation said Eleven had won the rights to show UFC in Britain to add to its offering of Italian and Spanish top-flight soccer and the 2018 PGA Championship.

BT is also due to lose the rights to NBA Basketball, which it holds until the end of October, a second person familiar with the situation said.

BT, which will show UFC until the end of this year, said it would not comment on individual sports but said it would not bid any more than the rights were worth to them.

"BT Sport remains the home of UFC and NBA at this stage, and we have long-term deals in place for our core content," it said.

"BT Sport customers will continue to receive great football, rugby and boxing next season among a wide range of sports – including every single match from rugby's Heineken Champions Cup."

BT's shares were trading down 1.5 percent at 232 pence at 1123 GMT.

Eleven, which broadcasts to more than 17 million paying customers in markets including the United States, Singapore, Myanmar, Italy, Poland and Portugal, is launching two channels in Britain in August.

Sky and BT had battled each other for years to the rights to show exclusive programming, but both have focused recently on having a select group of rights - such as the English Premier League or European Champions League - making it easier for others to enter the market for smaller sports.

The two broadcasters have struck a deal to share content on each other's platforms, reducing the competition between them to splash out millions for exclusive rights.

Eleven is owned by Leeds United chairman Andrea Radrizzani and run by Marc Watson, the former head of TV at BT.

(Reporting by Maria Gabriel and Paul Sandle; editing by Kate Holton)

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